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February 12, 2007

Comments

von, your track record concerning war leaves something to be desired.

Your natural inclinations toward warmongering seem to blind you to other options.

You and many other war cheerleaders seem to be the type of people who would bemoan the horrible yet necessary evil act of cannibalism after being stuck in an elevator for a few hours.

Can't speak for Publius of course but I don't think that he means that for eternity there will be no military encounter with Iran independent of the situation. I read him as talking just about the current situation.
Btw, officially taking the "option" off the table is in my opinion meaningless because nobody (sane) would actually trust any assurance in that direction.
"Nobody has the intention to...." is a sure alarm bell ringer in many parts

I don't think von has a track record as a warmonger.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't want to take away any foreign policy-maker's ability to bluff and bulls*** either.

But we don't live in a perfect world. Under our present unusual circumstances, it's worth it to sacrifice the next administration's ability to conduct a more ideal foreign policy in order to stop our current administration from attacking Iran. War with Iran conducted by Bush would really be *that bad*.

Moreover, the situation could change abruptly. There may be a moment when an attack does make sense -- e.g., a direct attack on US forces, whether those staged in Iraq or elsewhere. There won't be time for Congress to consult Publius or his followers in this situation, nor is it clear that the Publosonian pledgers will be informed enough of the change in circumstances to grant the necessary dispensation. Yet, Publius' threat may very well make a Congressperson decline to support what he or she thinks is right, for fear that she will be punished on election day.

Von,

Any pledge of the type conceived of by Publius would allow for exceptions. More importantly though, very few if any members of Congress would hesitate to authorize such action if the situation were so dire.

Beyond that, the POTUS would not need to wait for the authorization of Congress if the situation were so extreme.

As for fear of a grass-roots imposed dovish tyranny, I would only say that the American people have never shown such dovish inclinations. Quite the contrary, once the war drums start beating, the masses become rather supportive as a reflex.

Now the appetities might be low because of Iraq, but I don't foresee a categorical aversion to legitimate military use in the future.

I can conceive of no possible circumstances where allowing Bush to use military force would be a good idea, so totally obviating the possibility seems to me a feature, not a bug. When the Republicans stop being solely Bush enablers and actually acting deliberative, it might be time to reconsider.

War on Iran is morally wrong, and to expect people to sit idly by and let it happen because there may possibly be some hypothetical reason to keep the option on the table in the future is ludicrous. Furthermore, to expect people -- the governed -- to not make their feelings known regarding the conduct of Americans foreign policy -- whether or not they are qualified judges of foreign policy -- is the very definition of undemocratic.

There are a few possible events which could justify a war against Iran, but this is not the situation now. If something happens to change the situation, then obviously we have to reevaluate the conclusion to avoid war in Iran. But the current situation is that the Bush administration is trying to rush us into war with Iran just because it can. This is not adequate justification for war, and anybody who plays along with the administration's bloodlust is a despicable human being and definitely not qualified to represent the American people by serving in Congress or the Presidency.

von -- you raise interesting points. I"ll respond later today (though maybe tonight).

essentially - there are 2 points: (1) you give THIS administration less leeway regardless of what may be true generally; (2) the military threat against Iran is actually counterproductive for a host of reasons. #2 is really the heart of the c-argument, and i"ll get into that later

Another thing: Refusing to the the "option" off the table could also be counterproductive.
As leader of a country threatened with - in extremis - unprovoked nuclear annihilation, one could be tempted to take "preemptive" action.
Noone in Iran would seriously believe Cheney/Bush if they announced their lack of intention to attack Iran anyway.
In the shoes of the Iranian leadership I'd try to prepare everything to let all hell loose in case of a US air attack while at the same time avoiding any open provocation.
With someone else at the helm in Washington the situation would look slightly different and a "we will not attack" pledge would at least be considered to be taken seriously (but clearly not as a blanc checque).

I take so long writing my posts that they become partially obsolete before I send them.
:-(

I celebrate Publius' suggestion, which is probably the last realistic chance to give the American public a say in favor of peace and commitment to international law.

The perpetual war economy, the legalized bribery of our campaign finance system, and a number of other massive structural factors keep our politics perpetually constrained by the supposed need never to "take the military option off the table." As if any U.S. President ever has or would.

War with Iran is insane. It's almost certain to lead to an even worse debacle, given the current situation, than Iraq has become -- and that's saying something.

We're all trapped in the back seat of this pickup heading towards the cliff, and we don't know how close we are to the edge.

But if, by some miracle, we can get out of this vehicle before heading over, it's pretty damned important to alert the blue pickup coming along the road that if it's not going to head the other direction, away from the cliff, we'd just as soon walk, thanks.

I don't think that I have much of a reputation of a warmonger. It took me a long time to support the Iraq war -- longer than many of the former liberal hawks, e.g., Yglesias and Marshall -- and my criticisms throughout have been the same. (Not enough troops, not enough diplomacy and international involvement, etc.) I've now withdrawn my support, although I admittedly don't see the way clear as clearly as some.

Btw, officially taking the "option" off the table is in my opinion meaningless because nobody (sane) would actually trust any assurance in that direction.

That's not true, in the following fundamental sense: Iran lacks a way to respond directly to a US (or an US/Israeli) attack. Iran, at present, lacks nukes. An invasion of Iraq by Iran would face internal oppposition as well as substantial opposition from the Gulf States. Iran also lacks the capability to inflict significant harm on our assets in theater. The Iranian leadership knows that it cannot prevent airstrikes, and also that it has no good options if they occur.

Now, I oppose an attack on Iran for a whole bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that it would likely be a "success" in a qualified, short term sense. (Much like the attack on Iraq was an indisputable, short-term success in the narrow sense of removing Saddam's regime.) But to pretend that we couldn't inflict substantial damage on Iran while escape immediate repercussions is to engage in fiction -- one not useful to this debate.

Any pledge of the type conceived of by Publius would allow for exceptions. More importantly though, very few if any members of Congress would hesitate to authorize such action if the situation were so dire.

I don't see any exceptions proposed in Publius' pledge. (I also doubt that a lawyerly sixteen page pledge would catch on in the blogosphere -- e.g., "Part 16.2.1.a -- Circumstances Where Economic Sanctions Permitted Are Inappropriate"). Moreover, if the exceptions are broad, how can they not swallow the rule? (Your comment that Congresspeople will feel free to discount the pledge if it's really, really important also seems to suggest that the pledge is meaningless -- or to assume a level of Congressional prescience and/or spine that I don't think the evidence supports.)

"Foreign policy is one area in which democracy is ill-equipped to handle"

Excuse me, what? If you mean this it's proof that we shouldn't listen.

Why do you so many conservatives have so little faith in liberal democracy? It's track record is actually pretty good.

Maybe you mean a "Republic" is better than a democracy, but no one's suggesting a binding national referendum on war with Iran. We're suggesting pressure on our representatives, which is pretty much how Democratic Republics work.

And by the way, what makes "anti-war" folks an untrustworthy special interest besides being less than 50% of the population (though, in this case, we aren't). You simply don't accept the idea that people should be able to challenge their betters in the gov't with acccess to all that secret information, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, unless I'm misreading him Publius is talking about penalizing politicians if they support an actual war on Iran, now, run by this administration. Unless I'm misreading him he's not talking about a generic "no options are off the table" statement, which every candidate has made.

What kind of well-informed citizen would, given the evidence of the last six years, give this Administration the slightest bit of trust when it comes to national security, war, and peace? Were the lies of 2003 not enough evidence that these people have no regard for telling the truth to the American people?

But the current situation is that the Bush administration is trying to rush us into war with Iran just because it can.

No. The Administration is "trying to rush us into war with Iran" because it must. The current situation in Iraq is not sustainable militarily or politically. Thus they can either admit they were wrong, and thereby let the momentum pass to the Democrats and to the Baker-Hamilton types...

Or they can change the situation by expanding the war in a way the ideologues have always wanted anyhow.

George W. Bush does not do apologies. So the Flucht nach vorne it must be.

I agree with your concerns about direct democracy, but I don't see how Publius's proposal is any more letting laypeople run foreign policy than allowing people to vote on the basis of foreign policy in the first place is. I'm not enthusiastic about the proposal, but it could provide a little counterweight to the wave of jingoism that accompanies the runup to any war -- something that already causes politicians to give in to popular sentiment even if they don't think it's the wisest action.

We need to make it clear that the vote on the Iran war, if it comes, may well be the most important vote these politicians ever cast. I'm hesitant to endorse a litmus test, but it would be a way to make that point.

"Yet, Publius' threat may very well make a Congressperson decline to support what he or she thinks is right, for fear that she will be punished on election day."

There is, of course, no threat at all of this mechanism working in the opposite direction....

Okay, not fair, von surely remembers October 2002 as well as I do. But why are we pretending that Congress are pure statesmen on foreign policy, let ALONE this administration? Why is it illegitimate from trying to prevent October 2002 from happening again?

Your natural inclinations toward warmongering seem to blind you to other options.

So, SOD, you do think an attack on Iran is justified? Von said he thought an attack on Iran was unjustified.

Posted by: Eric Martin | February 12, 2007 at 01:14 PM

Eric, thanks for saving me a post by summing up my reaction beautifully. It's not like publius has some supernatural ability to make people "punish" their legislators irrationally. If action against Iran is indisputably at a later date, no Representative is going to fear a primary challenge on that basis.

I don't see any exceptions proposed in Publius' pledge....Moreover, if the exceptions are broad, how can they not swallow the rule?

Look von, if the challenge were embraced by the netroots as written by publius ("period. no exceptions.") that would not mean that, as EOC mentioned above, exceptions couldn't be made for exigent circumstances.

Congressmembers, and the netroots, would have a mutual understanding that if Iran invaded California, the "challenge" would sort of evaporate. As for making the exceptions so broad that the swallow the rule - I think there's an easy way around that:

Don't make the exceptions so broad!

I would only be comfortable attacking Iran under a very limited set of circumstances, and I think any "challenge" from the netroots could accomplish expressing that in about a paragraph or two - hardly 16 pages or whatever.

No war for IEDs, EFPs or training of militias (who comprise the government we defend with our blood and treasure). No war for Hezbollah or Hamas. No war for a nuclear program.

(Your comment that Congresspeople will feel free to discount the pledge if it's really, really important also seems to suggest that the pledge is meaningless -- or to assume a level of Congressional prescience and/or spine that I don't think the evidence supports.)

Why so categorical and binary von? It's not either meaningless or ironclad. No, instead, it creates a strong presumption against supporting military confrontation with Iran. They won't (or shouldn't) "feel free" to disregard the "challenge," but at the same time, I think they would understand that if a truly remarkable, exigent situation arose, they could violate the most stringent reading and go explain themselves to the voters about why this was necessary.

Slarti,

I think von and many of the other “pragmatists” around this site place too much faith in known sadists and murderers.

They want to kill more people. Von seems to believe these killers have been rehabilitated and nothing should prevent them from doing what comes natural for them. Killing.

Von, are you proposing that the public simply keep its nose out of foreign policy? Particularly given the events of the past several years, this seems ill-advised to say the least. You say that "it is therefore a realm for experts, not laypeople", but then what area of policy isn't? I don't think anyone would argue that health policy should be created by laypeople, or tax policy or pretty much anything important. The question is whether the people can and should have input on the policy decisions that those experts arrive at, and to what degree. Can you expand on why you think Publius' proposal exceeds the proper bounds of public involvement in policy?

Yet, Publius' threat may very well make a Congressperson decline to support what he or she thinks is right, for fear that she will be punished on election day.
If it make you feel any better, you can just consider it an attempt to balance out the fear that they will be punished by right-wing attacks for being "defeatist" or for failing to protect the troops from the evil Iranians or whatever the smear of the day is. The idea that this would impose political considerations on a Congressperson's decision-making where none existed before is pretty laughable, IMO.

SOD, that's very different from saying that Von has "natural inclinations toward warmongering" and calling him a "war cheerleader".

It's the Iraq War Resolution all over again. Even if you think war with Ira* is a bad idea, sayeth von, you need to give the President the authority to go to war so there are consequences for the other side to fear. Speaking for myself, I've fallen for that formulation one time too many and won't be fooled again.

I find there's a certain tendency among conservatives to overestimate the deterrent effect of an aggressive foreign policy. Back before the Iraq War, Iran was reaching out to us, making diplomatic overtures. Now they've elected a hardliner as president and they really couldn't seem any less cowed by the presence of the strongest military in the world right across their border. So I don't know how anyone could believe that a show of even MORE bluster would accomplish anything positive in negotiations with Iran, more than we've already accomplished by parking the Army and Navy on their doorstep and showing that America isn't afraid to kick some ass in the Middle East.

There is nothing we can accomplish with further saber-rattling that we haven't already had ample time to accomplish, given this administration's consistently hostile tone towards Iran. So it's reasonable to conclude, when we're told it would be irresponsible to counteract the saber-rattling at this time, that the stage is being set for more than just empty threats.

This is why the Constitution puts so much power over foreign policy into the hands of a single person (the President) and places much of the remaining power (e.g., the power to ratify treaties) in the hands of the Senate, the more deliberative legislative body.

...and e.g., the power to declare war. Fortunately, recent presidents have realized the quaintness of giving this power to the less responsive, deliberative body...

We elect them to utilize their judgment, and to make an unpopular decisions from time to time. That is a purpose of a republic, and one reason why we do not have a direct democracy.

Is this true? Or rather, is this all of the truth? Do we elect them only to use their judgment? Or do we elect them to exercise their judgment within the general framework of our desires? Are we merely electing random wise sages who will rule us, the foolish, childish masses as they, in their superior judgment, see fit? Or do we try to elect representatives who will rule in a manner that is responsive to our will?

There's this weird phenomenon on this site--von writes someting that clearly is not supportive of the Bush administratin and clearly is not knnee-jerk wingery, annd people react as if it is. maybe he should change his name to "strawman". I'm resondinng herre to thhe warmonger slur and SOD's comment.
I don't agree with von,but I don't see how his post can be interpeted as a failure to recognize the true nature of the Bush administration. The way I read his post he is wrriting just abouut how politics should be as if we could pursue political ends that way, when we can't.

The problem is that there isnn't any way to get a sound or rational Middle Eastern policy for at least the next two years. Bush won't form such a policy and the Republicans in Congress will most likely continue their pattern of enabling his excesses. The Democrats, even with a House majority, can't make and implement a foreign policy.
That means that the Democrats can do one of two things: obstruct Bush's excesses effectivly or fail to obstruct through ineffective messaging. It is all going to be in the messaging. So far the messages I've heard have been inefffective.
That's why I said that I thought the military option should be off the table. Suppose a Republican talking head says, "We must considerr attacking Iran because they are provifing the weapons to kill our soldiers" and HRC or Edwards, or Whoever responds, "We have to keepthat option on the table but it is the best choice right now," Ie: wimp who wants more soldiers to die before considering the option seriously. OTOH suppose the Deomcrat says,"The Bush administration has no credibility. They misled us innt a war once already annd the botchhed every aspect of the handling of that war. I'm not prepared to support military action initiated by thhis adminstration." That's an efffective counter to his saber-rattleing. And it is not even a controversial position since polls show over half the voters don't trust bush's leaderrship anymore.

I note your point about democracy, even republican democracy, with it's deliberative, contentious decision-making process, being a less-than-efficient vehicle for conducting foreign policy. I'm not sure I like the alternative, however I do note your point.

However.

Special interests (here, the peace wing of the Democratic party) frequently have a disproportionate effect.

How many Americans, as a percentage of the total population, do you think are opposed to starting a war with Iran?

50%?
60%?
70%?
90%?

When way more people are in favor of one position than another, I think they lose the taint of "special interest".

When does the need for "flexibility" override the manifest and clearly expressed will and interest of the population as a whole?

And, in the actual, concrete context we find ourselves in today, what legal or consititutional means should we *not* employ to limit the range of action of the man who actually *is* the President, here and how?

You sort of have an interesting theoretical point, but we aren't talking about a theoretical question. Anything but.

Nobody's calling for the usurpation of the Consitution or the law. They're calling for folks who are well within their power to do so to say "no mas" to a dangerous, irresponsible bungler.

That seems, to me, like precisely the right thing to do.

THanks -

"There's this weird phenomenon on this site--von writes someting that clearly is not supportive of the Bush administratin and clearly is not knnee-jerk wingery, annd people react as if it is."

Glad someone more on the left noticed it, I was getting tired of mentioning it. ;)

maybe he should change his name to "strawman".

i was thinking the same thing, but for the opposite reason.

it seems pretty clear to me, anyway, that publius isn't saying "Any Democrat who supports military action against Iran, under any circumstances, for all eternity, gets a primary challenger". no, i understood that as "Any Democrat who supports military action against Iran, under the current (complete lack of) circumstances, gets a primary challenger".

seems to me like von was setting up the strawman argument, since i don't think publius was arguing for what von was upset about.

There's this weird phenomenon on this site--von writes someting that clearly is not supportive of the Bush administratin and clearly is not knnee-jerk wingery, annd people react as if it is.

Glad someone more on the left noticed it, I was getting tired of mentioning it. ;)

Well, I was at lunch....

seems to me like von was setting up the strawman argument, since i don't think publius was arguing for what von was upset about.

Um, can we just say there's more than enough areas of agreement here and go onward to hammer something we all can live with?

I suspect that a lot of the attitude Von is getting comes from people (well, in my case at least, so perhaps "person" is a better construction) who have realized the following:

1. the Bush administration simply does not understand nuance.

2. the Bush administration appears to be following the same political and rhetorical steps from late 2002, this time against Iran. They want war.

3. therefore, anything short of "hobbling this Administration" is a waste of time.

Representatives and Senators who think, like von, that this Administration can be influenced from the current catastrophic course by anything short of absolute resistance are, in my opinion, deluding themselves. Thus, an effort to remind those public servants of the popular mood against escalation and expansion of the war is a good thing, and necessary.

seems to me like von was setting up the strawman argument, since i don't think publius was arguing for what von was upset about.

Exactly. It'd be nice if that point was recognized by Von.

There's this weird phenomenon on this site--von writes something that clearly is not supportive of the Bush administratin and clearly is not knee-jerk wingery, annd people react as if it is.

Maybe so, but this post doesn't demonstrate that von has learned to distrust the motives and processes of the Bush administration and, while not wingnuttery, is founded in some ideological assumptions and undue contrarianism. Perhaps if von's post were better reasoned, he wouldn't get jumped from so many logical directions.

FWIW: I've always found Von to be a reasonable person who I may disagree with, but not without the potential for thoughtful resolution. I didn't intend my critiques to imply otherwise.

"distrust" and "reflexively do the opposite of" aren't interchangeable.

Von's right. Democracies don't do "foreign policy" very well, if by foreign policy Von means, as he seems to mean, the threat of war. Tyrannies do war and the threat of war much better, because they don't ever have to worry about running for election.

Saddam Hussein was able to start a war with Iran, run it for years, end it, and turn round and invade Kuwait. That's how effective a tyranny can be at "foreign policy": in a democracy, Hussein might just have had to worry about how ending a war with Iran so abruptly in order to invade another country would look to the electorate.

Of course, that's why I prefer to live in a democracy. It may be less "effective" or more "effective" at foreign policy, but at least we can usually turn the rascals out when we get sick of the sight of them. Von evidently doesn't like that idea.

Is anyone else thinking of all those Democrats who rationalized voting for the AUMF against Iraq by claiming they were just giving Bush the leverage he needed to hammer out a peaceful resolution?

Of course, they didn't favor military action. They just didn't want to hamstring the CiC. (Nor did they want to get hammered in the polls.)

But now we are being told that if the grassroots starts applying pressure then our policy makers might start letting politics dictate foreign policy, and things could turn disastrous. Is that about right?

"But to pretend that we couldn't inflict substantial damage on Iran while escape immediate repercussions is to engage in fiction -- one not useful to this debate" ...von

Considering Consequences ...Andrew Olmstead

"The losses we're taking in Iraq now would pale in comparison to those we would face if we went to war with Iran. Is striking at Iran worth that risk?" ...Andrew

1. the Bush administration simply does not understand nuance.

2. the Bush administration appears to be following the same political and rhetorical steps from late 2002, this time against Iran. They want war.

3. therefore, anything short of "hobbling this Administration" is a waste of time.

If von is not a thoughtful (I enjoy reading him) and compassionate warmonger, he is certainly a hopeless enabler.

1. the Bush administration simply does not understand nuance.

2. the Bush administration appears to be following the same political and rhetorical steps from late 2002, this time against Iran. They want war.

3. therefore, anything short of "hobbling this Administration" is a waste of time.

That’s about right.

If von is not a thoughtful (I enjoy reading him) and compassionate warmonger, then he is certainly a hopeless enabler.

Bob, Von's not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed.

"Iran also lacks the capability to inflict significant harm on our assets in theater." ...von

"Whether or not they can reach these shores, as long as there are U.S. forces in Iraq they don't need to do much more than smuggle more and more sophisticated weapons systems to those we already fight in Iraq to hurt us. Imagine an insurgency armed with surface-to-air missiles and as many explosively formed penetrator IEDs they want." ...Andrew

"But to pretend that we couldn't inflict substantial damage on Iran while escape immediate repercussions is to engage in fiction -- one not useful to this debate" ...von

I can't deny that, due to the locally understood contexts involved, I find the conflicting analyses and projections of von & Andrew to be not only fascinating, but perhaps even revelatory. Dare I say.

Hmm, that wasn't fair to Von -- too SODistic.

Minor point, bob: it's Olmsted, not Olmstead. Thanks.

God, if only Fromkin could be cloned

The administration finally unveiled its case this weekend, first in coordinated and anonymous leaks to a trusting New York Times reporter, then in an extraordinarily secretive military briefing at which no one would speak on the record, journalists weren't allowed to photograph the so-called evidence, and nothing even remotely like proof of direct Iranian government involvement was presented.

With behavior like this by the administration and the military, the notion that one needs to give any kind of leeway (which includes enabling triangulation among anyone up for reelection in 08) is baffling. While it is a strawman to attack von for warmongering, the raw material comes from suggesting that publius was making some sort of categorical statement about opposing candidates that would be followed regardless what happens. I can see the Powerline crew or RS following in von's footsteps to create a scenario where Ahmadinejad views this as a greenlight to rain down bombs on US troops, followed by a pregnant question of whether publius is working for the mullahs, or just a clueless liberal.

So ... wait a minute ... why is it that we generally disbelieve everything coming out of a politician's mouth, but in terms of foreign policy, their word is their bond! That is, why is a foreign policy campaign promise any more credible than others?

Frankly, I don't see why any foreign nation would assume that a campaign promise not to attack would be decisive. If it were so, campaign promises would be America's greatest, cheapest surprise attack weapon, yielding an incredible first-mover advantage.

And Peter Pace declines to endorse the briefing.

"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se [specifically], knows about this," he said. "It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

The question I would ask Von is what qualifies, for him, as a trigger to attack Iran?

It certainly has to be a lot more direct than providing regular weapons or training to insurgents. There are far too many examples of us arming insurgent groups and dictators to make that argument work.

If Iran does get on the fast track for nukes, the Israeli response will probably make this discussion mute, since we will have to respond to whatever actions they take.

Er...General Pace said that he cannot confirm the briefing based on his own knowledge. Given his position, that's hardly surprising and not at all dispositive.

Which should not be taken as an endorsement of the administration's claims. Unless they've got some hard intel demonstrating the involvement of the Iranian government, as far as I'm concerned they don't have anything. But dragging in General Pace and using his comments to 'disprove' the administration's claims is misleading.

If Iran does get on the fast track for nukes

That's a big, big if, Step2.

(And you meant 'moot' rather than 'mute', yes?)

My problem with Von's stance is that it's a useless one. It's good not to wish for war on people who are not a threat to us - that's do his credit, and I'm not being cheap or sarcastic there, not in a world where we obviously do have people who relish the thought of hurting others who haven't and wouldn't ever hurt them first. It's genuinely good that Von is not a sadist, amoral kill-tally collector, or any other sort of blameworthy human being when it comes to the deaths of strangers.

But he's unwilling to translate his wish that others not die in a needless conflict into practical action. By telling Democrats (and presumably independent others) that we ought not wish to bind the administration's hands firmly at any point, he's saying that we're allowed only persuasion as a tool. And if it doesn't work? Well, shucks, then we're SOL and stuck with another needless conflict just as the war-wishers did want, even though there are steps we might have taken that might have stopped it. To me, the use of powers clearly granted by the Constitution to Congress even if it might make Von or anyone else feel uncomfortable is a lot better than the needless war. I don't respect deliberation that much - and neither, apparently, did the Constitution, as it grants real authority here and imposes real limits there.

I believe in the power of persuasion and the desirability of debate rather than decree. But I also believe in the necessity to not kill lots of people for no good reason. And where law and morality converge to give us tools besides debate, I want them used.

Andrew, I don't think I said differently, unless my accent fooled you ;^). I just don't think that we should take the word of people who refuse to be identified (even though one of them was apparently "Major General William Caldwell, whose portfolio includes public affairs and ...who's the official spokesman of the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq" (from the Fromkin link) and fail to acknowledge Pace's comments.

As far as the general thrust of the post goes, I would by preference radically diminish the powers of the Presidency as currently, or perhaps ever, understood.

The President negotiates treaties:simply agent, messenger boy. Congress with the power to ratify, is the sole determiner of the content, the substance of international relations.

Commander in Chief:any strategic movement or itemizable budgetary consideration is the domain of Congress. CinC no more (or less) decides when and where a battle is engaged than does an officer downrank. Sometimes energency or tactical decisions cannot be delayed. The only relevant question is one of time. Where time permits, Congress decides. So the deployment of a brigade from Florida to Kuwait, or a Carrier Group from San Diego to Okinawa, even during time of war, would be under the purview of Congress.

In general, the President does not ever make policy. He executes policy. I have no illusions about the pleasures of monarchy and the perquistes of Empire, nor about the implementation of my Constitutional interpretations.

Pile on. :)

I doubt it will come down to Bush asking for a AUMF against Iran, he knows he won't get it. He's fairly obviously, with the additional carrier group, increased rhetoric, etc., trying to convince the Iranians that it isn't a question of if the US will attack it's a question of when, to provoke them into initiating a conflict. And if that doesn't happen, well, they're bound to be better at manufacturing evidence than they were last time.

I think the thing to pressure Congress on is getting us out of Iraq, as that's the best way to try to keep us out of Iran.

I'd be interested to see one or more of our strict constructionist (or textualist) friends quote the exact language of the Constitution upon which the President's vast powers in foreign policy are based. And contrast it with the exact language in the Constitution discussion the President's admittedly limited powers with regard to domestic policy.

(I'm on a bad connection and may not respond right away. Apologies in advance.)

If the possibility of attack is so powerful a negotiating strategy, von, is it something you use at the negotiating table? Are you prepared to make the other side think you're about to leap out of the chair and brain them with your brief case? Why not? Why should there be laws against you assaulting them, when it constrains your negotiating prowess?

To go on a bit further: I suppose I would not argue with a quibble on any such pledge that we're not talking about an actual declaration of war on Iran. But no more AUMF or anything like it... if, at the negotiating table, Bush wants to threaten war, then he can threaten going to Congress and asking them for War.

If the possibility of attack is so powerful a negotiating strategy, von, is it something you use at the negotiating table?

I think he just cocks his head a bit and produces the 10d6 staff of Tacitus from under his coat. Few wish to try their chances at making the saving throw and the insanity unleashed has been known to melt even the sanest of minds.

I'm not going to put words in publius' mouth, but what his post meant to me was an expression of frustration that not enough Congresspersons - running for President or not - have stated definitively that they will refuse to roll over for the next inevitable disinformation campaign.

Not enough of them have stated outright that they will refuse to accept intelligence data that is unsourced, nor that they will go over even sourced intel with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it's not cherry-picked or comes from discredited sources.

Not enough of them have stated what their "trigger point" would be for supporting an attack on Iran, leaving the matter open for the Bush Admin to make a cassus belli out of whatever accusations it thinks it can sell to people. The goal posts have already moved, from "acquisition of nuclear weapons," to "nuclear weapon development programs," to "assisting Iraqi militias" (and even defining what that means is too vague).

I think what publius wants - and I know that I want - is a promise from Congress that it learned something from the Iraq fiasco, and that it won't be fooled, or intimidated, or disorganized, enough to let that happen again.

Persian Gulf Buildup ...a new Source I added today, Open Democracy

Apparently there are not only two Carrier groups positioned in the Gulf, but two Expeditionary Strike Groups there or on the way. ESG support amphibious operations with 7-10 ships.

In addition, The Ronald Reagan is heading to the East, and the Kitty Hawk is at an unusually high level of preparedness for supposedly being relieved.

So maybe 4 Carrier Groups and 2 ESG's in the Gulf by mid-March. Watch your turns guys.

Ok, reading it again more carefully, it appears that instead of being relieved by the Reagan , the Kitty Hawk could remain around Japan, doing the Reagan's misson.

So 5 flotilla, with 3 Carrier groups. Kitty Hawk close enough, tho I don't know if they would leave the Far East undefended against the North Korean Navy. :)

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